"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9)
These words of Saint Paul stand as a great challenge to all of us claiming to be disciples of the Lord. They are words spoken to the Apostle by Christ himself. They are words that identify the man of Tarsus as an authentic apostle sent out into the world to proclaim new life in the crucified and resurrected Christ.
The concept of power being made perfect in weakness is certainly difficult to grasp particularly in light of the fact that our country is engaged in a war without borders. The paradox of weakness perfecting power is something that is not easily implemented on a day to day basis. What had been told to Saint Paul in a vision has no practical application for so many who since 9/11 have a heightened sense of insecurity and defenselessness.
What we must remember as we celebrate this Eucharistic banquet is that the fundamental teaching of power perfected in weakness is not an option for any of us. What was given to Saint Paul is now being given to us. There is no way for us to skirt or ignore or even try to mitigate this teaching without compromising the Gospel. However, the question inevitably arises, why must this hard and even unreasonable teaching of our Lord be embraced? Why must the Christian be urged to accept and therefore to have faith in a teaching that is not only foolish from a logical perspective but can easily be construed as unpatriotic in this time of heightened patriotism?
To ignore or reject the paradox of power perfected in weakness is to ignore and reject the cross of Christ. Here let us not forget what Saint Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians: "For the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . .For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than man" (1: 18,25). What is unreasonable, what is illogical, what is shameful (c£ Hebrews 12:1-3) we accept as the very power and glory of God. The crucified Christ pours life upon the earth. His empty tomb reveals death being slain by death.
Like Saint Paul-we are to make Christ's words our own. The Gospel compels us to see with the eyes of faith that we cannot depend on worldly power and success. For worldly power - even when benevolent gives birth to destruction while worldly success is built on the backs of the oppressed. The Gospel summed up in the life giving word of the cross urges us not to rely on the power and glory of the world but on "God who raises the dead..." (2 Corinthians 1:9). Like the Apostle Paul we, who are Christ's disciples, are to follow the path he has opened for us. In the eyes of the world, this path is to be rejected for it makes no sense to voluntarily place oneself in a weakened or vulnerable position. Yet, for us who are being saved, the path of Christ and therefore the path of the cross shows us that even in the midst of violence and destruction the kingdom of God is being inaugurated.
We who celebrate this kingdom - we who belong to this kingdom - must show the world through word and deed that Christ, who gave himself up for the life of the world is and shall forever be victorious. "For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:11).
Copyright © 2003 by Father Robert M. Arida